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Opinion poll: Election commission caution on media

The Election Commission drew attention to Section 126A of the Representation of the People’s Act which bars media from publishing outcome of exit polls. Taking exception to the telecast/publication of `opinion polls’ on the general election in States and Union territories where polling has already concluded, the Election Commission has cautioned the media to desist from the practice to “maintain a level playing field.” In a communication address to all Chief Editors/Heads of television channels and print media, the Commission drew attention to Section 126A of the Representation of the People’s Act (RPA) which bars media from publishing outcome of exit polls. In a communication, the EC referred to the opinion poll broadcast by a TV channel on April 14 and said it included results of 111 Lok Sabha constituencies where balloting has taken place, which "in effect becomes dissemination of result of exit polls in respect of the said constituencies." "The prohibited period for this purpose is explained as 'the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll and continues till half an hour after closing of the polling in all the States and Union Territories'," it noted. The Commission said, "...to maintain level playing field and to ensure free and fair elections, the Commission advises all print and electronic media not to resort to the type of practice as mentioned above, which for all practical purposes mean publication of exit poll while claiming that the same is only an opinion poll". Section 126A says, 1[(1) No person shall conduct any exit poll and publish or publicise by means of the print or electronic media or disseminate in any other manner, whatsoever, the result of any exit poll during such period, as may be notified by the Election Commission in this regard. “.. (a) in case of a general election, the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll and continue till half an hour after closing of the poll in all the States and Union territories; (b) in case of a bye-election or a number of bye elections held together, the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on and from the first day of poll and continue till half an hour after closing of the poll: Provided that in case of a number of bye-elections held together on different days, the period may commence from the beginning of the hours fixed for poll on the first day of poll and continue till half an hour after closing of the last poll. (3) Any person who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine or with both”.

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